MOSCOW, January 18 (RIA Novosti) – An opinion poll published Friday indicated that over three-quarters of Russians support a ban on US nationals adopting Russian children, a finding that analysts linked to what they described as a rise in anti-American sentiments on state television and an oversimplified depiction of “us” versus “them.”
Russia’s controversial US adoption ban came into force on January 1 as part of a wider response to Washington’s approval of the so-called Magnitsky Act, which introduces sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses. Russia’s parliament is expected to discuss a total ban on foreign adoptions later this month.
Friday’s survey, released by the state-run VTsIOM pollster, found that 76 percent of respondents believed Americans should be barred from adopting Russian children, while 53 percent thought the ban should also apply to any foreign national.
The two most popular justifications among respondents for a US adoption ban (20 percent and 18 percent, respectively) were “the government should provide for the children, who should live in Russia” and “foreigners treat our children badly.” The poll included 1,600 respondents and its margin of error was 3.4 percent.
The findings contrasted sharply with earlier VTsIOM polls. In 2005, a mere 32 percent of respondents were in favor of a ban on foreign adoptions, while in 2010, the figure had risen slightly to 38 percent. Respondents were not asked separately about a ban on US families in earlier polls.
“First, most people don’t understand the context in which this ban was introduced: They don’t know much if anything about the Magnitsky Act,” Lev Gudkov, head of the independent Moscow-based Levada Center pollster, told RIA Novosti. “They are just asked, in essence, ‘Are you against the abuse of our children by foreigners?’”
Anna Kachkayeva, head of the media communications department at the Higher School of Economics, agreed, pointing out that coverage of the foreign-adoption story on television – where most Russians get their news – has been simplistic and slanted, with television reports focusing on the abuse and rejection of children by US adoptive parents, paying short shrift to the plethora of other conceivable angles.
“No one is covering this story in all its complexity – the international, business, ethical, psychological aspects of it,” said Kachkayeva. “So it sounds very simple: In American hands, children die.”
In recent weeks, coverage on national television has also often conflated opposition to the adoption ban, with urban, anti-Kremlin protesters cast as people “who don’t love their country,” she said.
“We’ve got no shades of gray left,” Kachkayeva added, “everything is just black or white, friend or foe.”
Gudkov, the Levada sociologist, believes that the results of VTsIOM’s survey “also reflect the wave of recent anti-American propaganda on state television,” which he called “clearly connected to Putin.”
Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of being behind the ongoing protests against his 13-year rule as president and prime minister. Programs aired on the pro-Kremlin NTV channel last year alleged that anti-Putin protesters were being paid “cookies and cash” by the US State Department. Another program on the same channel alleged the United States was behind the political punk group Pussy Riot.
At the same time, a poll released last spring by the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center showed that 52 percent of Russians said in 2012 that they had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the United States, down by just four percentage points from the previous year and up from 37 percent in 2003.
Over 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by American families in the last 20 years, including around 1,000 in 2011, according to US State Department figures. In introducing the controversial ban late last year, Russian lawmakers cited the deaths of 19 of those children, since 1999, at the hands of their US adoptive parents.
A lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, Yevgeny Fyodorov, the initiator of the proposed blanket ban of foreign adoptions, said in a recent interview that Russian children adopted by US families were treated as “slaves” or “cannon fodder” and brought to the United States to “boost the white population.”